BELMAR, NJ — The new Belmar Community Center certainly holds true to its name. The former First United Methodist Church complex has been transformed into a home for a wide array of activities for residents and organizations.
And the community got its first glimpse inside today, October 27, during an open house that was hosted by the borough’s recreation department.
“This is a great resource for the community,” said Janis Keown-Blackburn, the center’s volunteer coordinator, who has been working with Business Administrator Colleen Connolly and Recreation Director Ray Claudio to prepare the center for its grand opening. “This building has so much to offer, and we are look forward to having many activities going on here.”
A tour of the spacious center illustrates the “mixed-use” amenities that resulted from the conversion of the sprawling church complex at the corner of Seventh Avenue and D Street.
There is the VIP room for seniors, open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to noon, where they can enjoy a cup of coffee with friends, get the latest news on programs and activities, or just sit back, relax and watch television. One day a week, a member of the Belmar Police Department will stop by to join in the conversation.
While the multipurpose room has been set up with ping-pong tables on one end and round tables on the other, they will soon be moved to make way for yoga classes now held at Belmar Public Library. And the room’s new kitchen is an added bonus for organizations planning events and fundraisers.
The former church’s nave, complete with a state-of-the-art sound system, will provide an ideal setting for musical performances and other programs — its altar area, pews and stained glass windows remaining untouched. Upstairs, there’s plenty of meeting and storage space for scouting, library and other activities.
And back on the first floor, volunteers will continue to run the First United Methodist’s food pantry and Clothes Closet thrift store as they have been — from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday and Thursday.
Following Superstorm Sandy five years ago, the church building and school were closed for extensive renovations. However, when that project was completed and it was time for the church to reopen, many of its members had joined other nearby parishes. As a result, the building has stood vacant, except for the pantry and thrift store.
Under a lease agreement executed this past summer between the Belmar Council and the church, the borough has assumed maintenance of the property in exchange for using it rent-free.
For more information on the Belmar Community Center, call the recreation department at 732-681-3700, ext. 211.
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